November 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Oral Roberts University, the creation of the famous televangelist by the same name, has drawn some unwanted press attention surrounding a slew of allegations of financial, political and ethical misconduct.

The charges came to light with a lawsuit against the private Oklahoma religious school by three former professors who insist they were fired for speaking out against the university’s involvement in a local political race.

John Swails, Tim Brooker and Paulita Brooker claim that Oral Roberts’ son, Richard, now president of the school, asked a professor to use his students and school resources to help a county commissioner who was running for mayor of Tulsa. Non-profit organizations, such as ORU, are prohibited from using their resources to aid or inhibit a campaign for public office.

But the professors’ lawsuit includes other allegations that were brought forth in a document prepared by Richard Roberts’ sister-in-law. The internal report on alleged ethical and moral lapses was reportedly discovered by an ORU student while repairing a laptop computer.

The allegations include charges that an ORU maintenance employee was fired and his job given to a male friend of Roberts’ wife Lindsay, that Lindsay wracked up cell phone bills of $800 per month, sending hundreds of text messages to “underage males who had been provided phones at university expense,” and that Lindsay spent more than $39,000 at one clothing store in less than a year.

The document alleges that an ORU-owned jet was used to take one of Roberts’ daughters and several friends on a trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas and that the ORU ministry provided Lindsay a Lexus SUV and a Mercedes convertible.

The New York Times reported in early October that the professors had omitted from their lawsuit “some of the more salacious entries” from the internal document in hopes of preserving “as much as possible, the remaining positive image,” of the Tulsa-based university.

Richard and Lindsay Robertson denied any wrongdoing on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and according to The Times made light of the lawsuit at a mid-day prayer on ORU’s campus.

ORU’s Board of Trustees has voted to hire an independent auditor to review the allegations.